The Richmond City Council voted 6-3 tonight to advance a controversial Shockoe Bottom plan for a new Richmond Flying Squirrels (Class AA; Eastern League) ballpark and other development for further negotiations.
The vote came after a long night of testimony, featuring those who argue the ballpark plan, coupled with associated economic development both in Shockoe Bottom and the current Diamond ballpark site, represents needed investments in the city. Opponents say placing a ballpark at a historically sensitive area once housing the slave trade — including slave-trade businesses located on the ballpark site — is culturally unacceptable and an insult to the memories of the slave and their descendants.
The vote was 6-3. For most of the remaining votes on the economic development plan, six votes will be needed. Tonight’s vote was not a direct vote on the ballpark per se; rather, it authorized Mayor Dwight Jones and his staff to continue working on the development plan and negotiate the particulars. The Flying Squirrels have already stepped up to offer one of the highest rents we’ve seen in Minor League Baseball — some $1.7 million annually — and developers will be working on plans for other parts of the Shockoe Bottom redevelopment, including housing, retail, office space and a Kroger grocery store. Baseball per se really isn’t the issue here: the issue is culturally sensitive development versus a mayor wanting to upgrade a borderline area of his city.
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